BSNL's Big $750 MM WiMAX Network Plan

[qi:___wimax] Indian incumbent BSNL plans to spend about $750 million on a nationwide WiMAX network that will primarily target rural areas and small towns and cover a sixth of the country’s ever-growing population. This has to be one of the largest WiMAX rollouts anywhere on the planet.

The funds for the first phase of deployment are coming from a universal service fund set up for broadband access. BSNL will roll out the WiMAX network in large cities later as a separate buildout. The initial network will connect schools and telephony kiosks in villages.

The state-owned incumbent that is often the target of choice four-letter words because of dropped calls to my parents in Delhi has been dabbling with WiMAX for a while now. The announcement comes close on the heels of the Indian government clarifying its 3G policies.

The primary beneficiaries of this new network are going to be local WiMAX gear maker Telsima Networks, Aperto and Cisco-owned Navini Networks. India is fast becoming a big WiMAX testbed. From Intel, Alcatel-Lucent to small startups, all are betting on the WiMAX rollouts promised by incumbents and private sector players such as Reliance and Tata.

Wireless technologies seem to work well in India vs. wired broadband, which is popular in other fast-growing telecom markets such as China. Maybe it is easier and faster to roll out wireless infrastructure and start making money.

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